It’s true that Christmas is months away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start the festivities a little early. In fact, if you want to be a little easier on your pocketbook, thinking about Christmas now is highly advisable. The average household spends thousands every Christmas, underscoring a need to start planning early.

Holiday Spending Creates a Heavy Financial Strain

Debt is the status quo come Christmas. A survey from the Motley Fool revealed that 56 percent of Americans plan to go into debt to cover their gifts, parties, and Christmas expenses. About 34 percent plan to spend more than $500 per significant other in their life, and they’ll amass just under $1,000 in debt to do it. It takes the average shopper about six months to pay off the sum.

Other shoppers will pull out money by even riskier means. About 25 percent will dip into their 401(k), use emergency savings, or take out payday loans. This can create serious financial risk.

Savvy shoppers have tried many tactics to avoid going into debt during this time of year. The most common is to create a budget, but nearly 60 percent of families who make a budget won’t stick to it, according to the survey.

The research is astounding, and it underscores the need for saving early in order to avoid the risks of the upcoming holiday season. You might be thinking that the summer is the wrong time to start saving up for the holidays, but if you want to get through the end of the year financially unscathed, this is exactly when you need to start saving.

4 Ways to Save for the Holidays

You don’t have to take a major financial risk just to get through the holidays. Here are some tips for starting the process early.

Budget Your Extras Toward Christmas

You’re probably used to spending a little extra money every month on restaurants, personal shopping, or other activities. So, budget a portion of your extra cash flow for your Christmas fund.

If you typically spend $2,000 at Christmas, and you’re starting your Christmas shopping in July, That means you’ll be allocating about $300 extra dollars every month for holiday shopping. If you don’t have that kind of cash, consider starting your savings early or reducing what you would normally spend at Christmas.

Additionally, put the money somewhere you won’t touch it. Stow it in a separate savings account that can’t easily be spent or hide cash under your mattress. It will be tempting, but the savings will be well worth it.

Buy Gifts In Advance

Try to spread out the purchase of your gifts over the next few months. That way, you’re less likely to take on debt. The cost of each gift can simply be absorbed into your extra monthly cash flow.

You can also pre-order gifts to be delivered over Christmas. For example, Christmas gift baskets and hampers can be ordered early, often at a discount. You can eliminate this extra cost from the Christmas season and take some of the stress out of this busy time of year.

Watch for Deals

The major sales at retailers don’t take place at Christmas, but rather throughout the year. You can save big by taking advantage of Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Black Friday sales for your Christmas shopping.

Make a list of everyone in advance, and watch for sales on the perfect gifts throughout the year. When you spot something at a great price, use your budgeted money to make the purchase.

Plan Events in Advance

It’s so easy to get caught up in the spirit of the holidays and make bad spending decisions when planning events. If you plan them ahead of time, you’re more likely to make pragmatic decisions instead of sentimental decisions.

Make travel plans, purchase party supplies, book caterers, and schedule other events in advance. You’ll have more cash in your pocket, and you’ll be free to enjoy a stress-less holiday season.